Opportunity Knocked and Derek Beattie Answered

A moldmaker's love of computers translates into mold design expertise.

Growing up in the Stockton, CA area, Derek Beattie moved around a lot, and as a result found himself living on his own while still in high school. While enrolled at Delta Junior College in Stockton - studying computer science and mathematics - he was enticed into the moldmaking industry by a local shop owner who impressed Beattie with his operations and made him see the many opportunities an apprenticeship afforded.

"While in school, I was teaching karate in Lodi, and Terry Quashnick - the owner of Lodi, CA-based Quashnick Tool Corporation (QTC) - was coming in for lessons," Beattie recalls. "He knew that I was into computers and math, so he kept trying to get me into his shop so he could show me what he did. When I finally saw it, I was very interested and they eventually offered me an apprenticeship."

This was right about the time that Beattie was finishing his associate's degree at Delta and preparing to transfer to Chico State to obtain his bachelor's degree. He was then faced with the toughest decision of his life thus far. "I was either going to finish college or enter the four-year apprenticeship as a moldmaker," he says. "I decided to take the apprenticeship as a moldmaker and I don't regret it a bit - it worked out very well for me.

"There were a couple of things that made me take this route," Beattie continues. "I figured that at 21, I was still young and this was a great opportunity that most people don't have or even know about. And part of the apprenticeship involved school - which was taken care of by the apprenticeship program. You work and you get four years of on-the-job training. So while I was training to be a moldmaker, my classes were being paid for, and I was able to take more computer science and mathematics classes."

His proficiency in computers and math resulted in his eventual career path of mold design. He still enjoyed building molds, but Quashnick had a real need for Beattie's specialty. Today, he is responsible for QTC's design and CNC programming department and maintains contact with many of Quashnick Tool's customers.

This expertise also led to the start of his own design, programming and consulting business, Polysurf Mold Design (Galt, CA). "Terry encouraged me to open my own design firm," Beattie explains. "We had so much work to do and everything that came into the shop had to go through the design department, which was only me at the time. If we'd get three or four fairly complex projects, I'd be working 10- to 12-hour days and coming back in the evenings. I ended up starting my business on the side so that I could do supplemental work for Quashnick from my home office. It's been great, especially since I have a family now. It has also enabled me to get out a little bit, see other companies and do work in other areas such as plastic part design."

In addition to juggling two full-time jobs and having a young, growing family, Beattie also belongs to the Society of Plastics Engineers (Brookfield, CT) through Quashnick Tool and attends meetings whenever he gets a chance. He is clearly happy with the path his life has taken and hopes to get more young people involved in the moldmaking industry. "Kids today need to explore all of their options," Beattie states. "Entering into a moldmaking apprenticeship can be a great way to start a career. Kids are being pushed to go to college, which isn't a bad thing, but moldmaking is another way to get a good education - and the hands-on experience and training is invaluable. You get a good wage for the work you are doing, and it opens up doors to many opportunities." For Beattie, it was the only way to go. "It's been wonderful," he says. "I am very satisfied and constantly challenged with my career in moldmaking and mold design."

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